THE WARS by Timothy Findley


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The madness of war, WW I variety and Equus-style--in an evocative but heavy-handedly contrived patchwork of lyrical-deadpan narrative and first-person ""transcripts."" From the detached viewpoint of an unnamed researcher, Canadian Findley reconstructs the horror-legend of young, handsome, animal-loving Robert Ross--a Toronto lieutenant who goes to war already guilty (he blames himself for the recent death of his hydrocephalic sister), with much more guilt and death in store: on the ship to Europe, he has to shoot, clumsily, a sick horse (just as his neurotic mother ordered him to kill his dead sister's rabbits); in England, he sits endlessly by the bedside of a dying comrade; at Ypres, he survives being swallowed up in chlorine-drenched mud only to witness the unbelievable slaughter. Recovering back in Britain, he has a brief encounter (sex=violence) with a titled floozy who's in love with a British war hero--a hero doubly debased because Robert saw him being buggered back home in an Alberta whorehouse and because he ends up armless and a failed suicide. Though there are scenes of uncluttered power--a platoon survives gassing by covering their faces in cloth doused with their own urine--Findley is far too transparent as he accumulates and interconnects Robert's inner and outer horrors, not to mention the symbolic appearances of birds, rabbits, hedgehogs, and other innocent creatures. And this would-be mythmaking verges on parody when Robert, on the front again, is gang-raped by fellow officers in a bathhouse and then goes into his legendary freak-out: shooting and liberating horses, killing superior officers. Hero? Madman? A suspiciously familiar question, especially in equine company--and only one of the see-through pretensions that keep Findley's obvious talents from coming together in this uncertain blend of case history, war story, and allegory.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1978
Publisher: Delacorte